Ultratide: Behind the Scenes

Ultratide: Behind the Scenes

In 1975 Pulsar released the first calculator watch, arguably marking the advent of what's recently been coined "wearable technology."

Now, 40 years later, Nixon and Surfline have partnered to launch a product that delivers ten real-time data points from Surfline's global forecast right to your wrist. The Nixon Ultratide is the first piece of digital wrist tech that can accurately forecast real-time surf conditions at more than 2,700 locations around the world. It's also customizable and capable of geo-targeting your location and reporting conditions accordingly. Users can also create their own "Surf Journal," which remembers great sessions and alerts you when similar conditions occur.

Surfline sat down with Nixon's Vice President of Global Product, Tyson White, and Ultratide Product Manager, Nick Everist, to discuss the product's conceptualization, development and release.

How long did it take to bring the Ultratide to market?
WHITE: We knew we wanted to create a watch with real-time tide data, and it took us two and a half years of R&D to make it happen; it's the world's first real time tide/surf conditions watch. Keeping it simple enough to not detract from the pure nature of going for a surf, but sophisticated and detailed enough to ensure you'll never not know. We didn't want the ‘smart' experience to feel like a burden. We still want surfing to feel like an escape, and we want to help you plan the most epic time to make your escape.

What makes the Ultratide different than other tide watches?
EVERIST: Previously all tide watches were pre-programmed. The Ultratide has an integrated Bluetooth radio and custom-designed antenna that connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Download the free app, login and follow the one-step process to sync your watch to the app. The app and watch will work in the background to stay updated and synced with the latest Surfline data. Choose your preset spots, and they will sync directly to the watch with all ten data points. Up to five spots can be synced to the watch, and you can have up to ten stored as presets within the app. Surfline provides all the forecast data directly to Nixon at the same time it updates on the website.

How can the user customize Ultratide surf alerts?
WHITE: Users can manually select all their alert criteria within the app or create an alert based on a saved session for their Ultratide Surf Journal. The alert has the following criteria: surf height, wind speed, wind direction, swell period, swell direction and swell height. Users can have the Ultratide auto-fill the alert based on a past session. If the user has logged a session in their Surf Journal, they can hit one button and it will auto-populate all the above criteria to alert the user if the conditions ever match the same as they were during that session.

What was the biggest product development challenge?
WHITE: Based on all the data available, we decided it was integral for us to make Ultratide battery-powered. Studies show that the lifespan of wearable devices that have to be plugged in and recharged is very short. We didn't want to create a product that would be a burden to the user or end up in a drawer. That was one of the biggest hurdles we came across. It was also a challenge to incorporate a Bluetooth antenna into a stainless-steel case. Fortunately we were able to work with some great partners, and because we weren't willing to compromise, the finished product is truly the first of its kind.

What about battery life?
EVERIST: The battery is a traditional coin cell watch battery that is readily available. It will last approximately 12-18 months, depending on usage. When the battery is getting low, the user will get a notification, and then when it's finally time to replace the battery the user will receive another notification with instructions on how to send it in to Nixon for a free battery replacement. Also, because the Ultratide uses Bluetooth Low Energy and works discreetly in the background for only seconds at a time, it does not have an adverse affect on battery performance on your phone. It transmits its data to the watch in very small, short bursts so it doesn't waste battery on the phone or the watch. It also has an accelerometer inside, which can monitor when you're not using it and automatically reserve power usage.

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